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How sex is being used as a tool in Thai politics

Women seem to have become a casualty of the ongoing political strife that has been plaguing the Kingdom since the 2006 military coup, if not earlier. This became very clear when a number of female Pheu Thai MPs decided to hand sarongs over to opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva in protest against his alleged reference to Thailand's first female prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra as a "stupid bitch".

Since Abhisit refused to apologise, female MPs from the ruling Pheu Thai Party - led by Sunee Luangwichit and Yaowanit Piengket - decided to make a symbolic gesture showing how he lacked the "qualities of a true gentleman".

While these women might have succeeded in raising the issue of whether Abhisit should be held accountable for his remark, they also unfortunately succeeded in perpetuating a rigid gender stereotype - perhaps reinforcing the belief that women lack the independence to acknowledge their mistakes.

There have been lots of tweets over the past year demeaning female members of the red-shirt movement by those who claim to be admirers of the opposition Democrat Party.

One Twitter user in particular, @VvSay7, continues posting vulgar messages about his sexual exploits with red-shirt sex workers.

In a message tweeted at around 8.40pm on September 9, @VvSay7 wrote: "She's definitely red shirt! She did not want penetration, but Bt4,000 makes it negotiable. #easy #red buffaloes." (The message has been edited for propriety.)

Some 20 minutes later, the same person - who also tweets in near flawless English - posted again, saying: "Why should the masses of red-shirt buffaloes be troubled when red-shirt girls are admonished as stupid bitches, sluts or whores, if what was said is true? Just try to get with it!"

To be fair, I have also seen some vulgar tweets from red-shirt supporters. One of them boasted about his abilities in bed and how a woman from the anti-government multi-coloured shirt camp found it impossible to resist him despite learning that he was a red shirt.

As always, sex has once again become an act of violence - a way of dominating the enemy.

War usually brings out the worst in humans, who think nothing of using rape as a weapon in such circumstances. The most recent account comes from Myanmar's Shan State, bordering Thailand, where Myanmar's army is using systematic rape to mete out violence on Shan women.

Similarly, the ongoing political hatred in Thailand is bringing out the worst in some of us. It is also starting to shed a bright light on how far Thailand is from achieving gender equality. We can either use this situation to indulge our worst side, or we can stop and take account of just how low we have plunged over the past seven or eight years.

Sadly, though, the latest sarong incident also shows how women can sometimes, unwittingly, become perpetrators of gender bias by degrading and making victims of themselves.


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